With the introduction of Fight Factory on NUVOTV, a reality show centered around the American Kickboxing Academy, we get to see the everyday operations of what goes on in a supercamp. The ups and downs, and even the splintering off of some of the team are featured in this fascinating series. AKA team member and UFC welterweight mainstay, Jon Fitch, gave me a great interview where we discussed a veritable cornucopia of topics that included the fallout between Javier Mendez and Josh Koscheck, the importance of a rematch with B.J. Penn and his plans for the future.
Stephie Daniels: With the very public split between Josh and Javier, has it created some noticeable friction during the filming of Fight Factory?
Jon Fitch: It's kind of been like a slow, gradual process that we've been going through, because once we moved gym locations, everything started getting really rocky. We lost Dave Camarillo, and Koscheck started being very unhappy. You could tell the way he was acting around the gym. Something was bothering him. We just weren't quite sure what it was yet.
With time and growth, you're going to go through those growing pains, and I think we're coming out of it now. You're going to see the very best American Kickboxing Academy in the next year or so. We're finally catching our stride and getting things together in the gym. Everything is starting to tighten up.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel like you're sort of stuck in the middle and being pulled in two different directions between Josh and Javier?
Jon Fitch: In the beginning, a little bit, but Josh has made it pretty clear that he's removing himself completely and it kind of doesn't put you in the middle when he's pulled himself so far out of the situation. He's still my friend, but I think he could have handled things with Jav a little bit differently. Hopefully, some day they'll be able to talk on another plane, and see eye to eye. I don't know. They have history, and they've been through a lot together, and they've done a lot together. I think it's important for both of them not to forget that.
Stephie Daniels: Do you think they will ever be able to resolve this, or at least come to a point where they can be in the same room with each other and act civil?
Jon Fitch: I don't think any time soon. That's for sure. You know, it's pretty hard to get under Jav's skin, and I think Josh really hurt him with what he said. It really upset him, with how he kind of attacked him. In a way, it's kind of working out better for the rest of us, because I think it's kind of lit a little fire under Javier's ass. He's more of a coach now than he ever has been. I think he's kind of used this situation to pull himself together and start showing some more leadership and direction with the team.
Stephie Daniels: Was there a point when you felt like you weren't receiving enough guidance from Javier?
Jon Fitch: No, nothing like that. He's great. The thing with Jav is that in the beginning, he was just a gym owner. He didn't really have any affiliation with the fight team. He didn't really train with us or anything. He helped decide business things and fight selections and fight strategies. That's why we referred to him as The Godfather. He started getting more and more involved when The Ultimate Fighter came on. He saw how this was becoming a legitimate business, and our team was good and we could do good things, so he started putting more and more time into it.
He'd never been like a Greg Jackson, who runs every practice from beginning to end, wets up all the drills or sets up all the workouts. That's not his style. That's not how he had run things. I think the fallout with Josh was because some of us do have certain coaches who are stand-up coaches, and we spend most of our time with that guy. We work with other guys too, because we have multiple coaches, and it's good to get input from all of them, but we usually have one guy that we spend 85% of the time with, and that was really Jav and Koscheck's relationship. Somewhere in there, that relationship broke down and made Josh unhappy.
Stephie Daniels: What's your take on B.J. Penn holding out until December to fight Rory MacDonald, when he could have answered your call for a rematch before you made your verbal agreement with Erick Silva?
Jon Fitch: That's a fight I want and will always want, because I feel it's ridiculous to leave things unfinished. One way or another, I've got to get that fight, or it's just going to be a monkey on my back forever, so I want it taken care of. Good luck to him and Rory, but I still want my chance to redeem myself.
Stephie Daniels: Is it more important to you to redeem yourself against B.J. than it is for say, the Johny Hendricks fight?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, I think it does take priority to it, actually. I feel like I owe Johny Hendricks another fight, because I don't feel like I respected him or prepared properly for that fight. I don't think I put myself in a position to give him a real fight. The thing with B.J. is more important because it kind of stings more.
Stephie Daniels: How did you feel about the stoppage in your fight with Johny?
Jon Fitch: He dropped me with a good punch. I've been dropped before. Three has always been the number I believe, three unanswered blows before they should stop it, but I only got hit twice. I was up and completely fine immediately after. I immediately recognized the ref as he was jumping on me. I was fine, and I think I could have went longer. I know what I'm getting into, and I know what we're going out there to do. I know what risks we're taking, and that's why I signed my name on the dotted line. I want the opportunity to make absolutely sure the fight's over. We're talking about a lot of money, win or lose, so I want to make sure that if I'm out, I'm really out.
Stephie Daniels: What got you through that five round war with Georges St. Pierre, and do you feel that's the same thing that drives you in training for your fights now?
Jon Fitch: It's will. It always has been. It's the choice to make it happen, to put it in your mind that there is no alternative. It's about always having your mind set on the goal that needs to be accomplished. You just keep moving towards that goal, no matter what. You keep your eye on that goal and keep moving forward.
Stephie Daniels: Has the fight experience sort of changed or mutated along the way from your initial title run to now?
Jon Fitch: I think the climate of fighting has changed a little bit. I think it's a little more excitement and entertainment based than a sport, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying that it's heading more in that direction. I think the adaptation that the fighters have to make is to up their game to that more modern trend.
The original pioneers of the sport started dropping off when they failed to adapt to the new, mixed style. Guys with jiu jitsu and wrestling and striking were putting it together, so guys stuck with just jiu jitsu or just wrestling started falling behind. It's just a different kind of metamorphosis in the sport now. That excitement factor, that little extra flair on top is a part of the sport now.
Stephie Daniels: With Dave Camarillo and Leandro Vieira being such high level grapplers, what do you feel that each brought to the table at AKA?
Jon Fitch: They're both phenomenal. I'm pretty damned lucky that I've gotten to work with those guys. Dave's whole system and style is about being aggressive and attacking and finishing quickly. Leandro has got this whole system with Checkmat and his brothers. There's a lot of world championships in the bloodline of the Vieira brothers. They have a vast amount of experience and are showing us some amazing things with hip control and pressure. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they start seeing the AKA guys using this stuff. It's pretty out there, and I don't think a lot of people are grappling this way. I'm pretty excited about this next step in the evolution of MMA and jiu jitsu that we might bring to the table.
Stephie Daniels: How has the vegan diet been working out for you?
Jon Fitch: It's something that I've been experimenting with over the years, but I found out that going 100% vegan was good for me, but I was losing too much weight. I was at 183 pounds, walk-around weight, and that's just too light for me. I don't have enough mass. I like to be between 187-192. I found that if I eat a little bit of meat on Saturday and Sunday, it would give me that extra weight that I need. I recover faster during the week, and I have a lot more energy. Weight management is a piece of cake. If you're a tree hugger type, it makes a huge ecologic impact, not eating meat on those five days of the week.
Stephie Daniels: What are your post fighting career plans?
Jon Fitch: I'd like to open a gym somewhere. It probably won't be in California, but somewhere warm, for sure. I just don't have time to start a gym here in California because there's too much competition. It would just take too much time to get it up off the ground.
Stephie Daniels: Ideally, how many more years would you like to continue fighting?
Jon Fitch: Well, I feel good, and I like my job, so as long as I stay healthy and I'm having fun, I can see myself fighting for another 10 years. You know, I've put 10 years in this summer, and I think I can get another 10 in.
Stephie Daniels: You've recently verbally agreed to meet a rising prospect in Erick Silva at UFC 153. What's the overall feeling about fighting him on his home turf in Brazil?
Jon Fitch: I'm excited about this fight. One of the reasons I got into the fight game was to travel the world and visit exotic places and fight the locals, so now one of my dreams is coming true. I get to go to Brazil and fight Erick Silva in his home town.
I love Brazilians. I love jiu jitsu. I've always gotten a lot of warmth for my jiu jitsu from the Brazilian fans, so I'm hoping I'll be well received and hopefully, by the end of the fight, I'll have them cheering for me like Rocky in Rocky IV.
You can follow Jon via his Twitter account, @JonFitchdotnet